Our Washington Wizards player evaluation series continues with Raul Neto.
A Pleasant Surprise — The $1.9 million Raul Neto earned this past season accounted for 21-percent of his career earnings. While the Wizards are trying to become a “destination franchise,” they first have to be shrewd decision-makers in free agency. Splashing cash for a big name doesn't always pan out, and teams often are saddled with fat contracts that clog the salary cap. Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard is aware of the market limitations of being in D.C., so he went out and inked budget contracts on players who could come in and help the team. And Neto did just that.
Statistical lines — Neto ostensibly was brought in to be the team’s third point guard, operating as a depth piece behind Russell Westbrook and Ish Smith. Neto caught the eye of former Head Coach Scott Brooks, as the bench boss opted for three-guard rotations more often than most would have preferred. In 64 games, 22 of which were starts, Neto averaged 21.9 minutes per game — compared to Smith’s 21 minutes — and set career-highs in points per game (8.7), rebounds (2.4) and steals (1.1).
He logged his second-best averages in assists per game (2.3) and free-throw percentage (88). The 29-year-old knocked down 39-percent of his shots from behind the arc on 2.6 attempts per contest and shot 47-percent from the field. Despite averaging just under nine points a night, Neto had three games of 20-plus points and reached double figures 21 other times.
Championship rosters are littered with players like Neto. This is not to say that the Wizards are a championship-level team, rather it is to stress the importance of guys who, on their best night, can put up 25 points while making less than $2 million.
Salary caps are eaten up by the stars, and rightfully so — they are the top players and should be compensated as such. To build a contender, though, organizations must make prudent decisions when filling out the roster. It wouldn't break the bank, but Neto is due for a pay increase should he re-sign in the nation’s capital.
Statistically, Neto did more than Smith last season — on a cheaper contract — and he is three years younger than the veteran guard. If it comes down to choosing between either Neto or Smith to address other positions on the roster, Neto would be the logical choice to bring back to D.C.